Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Techo phobic? ME? Hmmmmm....

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I was getting in the car to make the return 6 hour trip to New England while saying goodbye and chatting with my 19 year old nephew. I was gathering up all my entertainment devices from the back seat to pass the time and was unaware that he was watching me when I heard him ask with a note of incredulity in his voice "Is that a cassette player?"  It was at that moment the gap between my 49 and his youthfulness widened.  You would have thought I pulled out a gramophone, beta-max and 8 track tape player and to him it probably was just as ancient. We had a good laugh in that comfortable way we have with one another as I felt compelled to show him I indeed did have my iPod Nano with me too! As though that would make up for my electronic deficiencies in his techno youth oriented eyes. After the shared chuckle between us, and me thinking perhaps it was a good idea I hid the gramophone from sight, I thought to myself "maybe I do need need to step it up a notch or two!"

I wasn't doing this out of any need on my part to be rebellious, or out of some protest against the technology age, it was simply that at my age my memory is not what it used to be and when it comes to downloading my audiobooks and music on iTunes I am woefully out of practice. It, quite frankly, can take me an hour to do what my probably takes my young and hip nieces and nephews minutes, OK no, seconds to complete. I also do not always get it right the first time and have to really think long and hard sometimes about what it is I am trying to do.

Now, back in my early 30's when I was lucky enough to return to college to persue a second degree in fine art, I held tight to my conviction that print media, PHOTO print media was THE only way to go. I simply LOVED the smell, feel and experience of printing both color and black and white prints in a dark room environment. There was a wonderful camaraderie in a dark room that those who do it, understand what I mean. It never fails to make my heart beat faster in anticipation as you swish your recently exposed photo paper in the developer.  When the murky image starts to emerge you hold your breath expectantly waiting for the print you worked so hard on to appear before your very eyes.  Sure, there was TONS of disappointment concerning shots not captured or exposed incorrectly, but the feeling that comes over you when you get it just right is indeed indescribable. All your senses are engaged except for perhaps taste, although that is indeed subjective, as some of what came out of those dark room days were tasteless to be sure. : )

I finally succumbed to the digital age once I relocated to New England since I  no longer had access to a free print studio. When you add on the expense of paying for the pleasure to make your artistic inspirations come to life it can quickly add up. So I "went digital" and it came with a whole new set of frustration and disappointment. I had to rely on a computer now which  took out all the fun and frivolity of a dark room experience. Boring. You really have to be truly self motivated to sit on your butt and stare at a screen instead of moving around a darkroom going from wet print to finished product. Far more satisfying in my opinion.

While I have to admit liking the instant gratification of watching my recently taken images appear almost seconds after snapping the shutter release on the tiny display screen. That is fun and rewarding. But it can never truly replace the joy and pleasure of physically manipulating an image with your hands to make it completely your own. Computers just feel like a filter between you and the work and I am too tactile a person for that to truly satisfy my artistic aspirations.

My husband tells me my cell phone is out of date and needs updating. He has been telling me this for close to a year now. I tried to make the switch this summer with a PalmPre he had given me. I was overwhelmed at all the bells, whistles and features and had to beg him to switch me back to my old phone. I simply do not use a cell often enough to want all the latest features that so many others look for with covetous eyes. My needs are simple: with my aging eyes, I do like a large number pad to dial, and an equally large keyboard interface in which to text. I use the internet and email features occasionally and yes I am aware how slow my trusted phone truly is! He is pushing me to get an iPhone, so who knows where it will all lead? I will make the change, just has to be at my own pace, not one dictated by media release dates. There will always be something better, faster, and more powerful, but this does not mean I have to own it.  I am not so much  techno phobic, as just someone who gets set in her ways and prefers to feel comfortable with my knowledge base.

Oh, and to my nephew, you will be proud to note I downloaded all my media onto the computer recently, including the one cassette I was using since I oddly enough also had it on CD! I then transferred it onto my iPod Nano and am putting the CD and cassette player away in a bureau drawer. So perhaps one day it can be discovered after I am long gone and you can send me a cosmic chuckle when you recall only too vividly the time this "ol' lady" gave it up and stepped into the age of technology. Better late then never as the saying goes!

Monday, November 21, 2011

In Love and Gratitude

We are given many opportunities over our lifetime to say thank you to the people who have left their indelible mark in our lives, however we don't always take the time, however brief, to do it. Thanksgiving seems a good a time as any so here is my show of gratitude to those that are in my heart and will remain so for many years to come:

To Bob and Ty: Two people who mean more to me than life itself!!! Unconditional love, non judgemental and a total acceptance of who I am and what I am all about. This is the greatest gift a spouse and a son could possibly give to me. Bob, you have stood by me through many ups and downs and have shown an unwavering support of all this and more that is immeasurable! And to Ty....your light, laughter and love make me so grateful every day that I woke that freezing cold sub zero January morning over 8 years ago telling your Daddy, "this is the time to start our family and adopt our child" and without missing a beat he said "yes!" Love to you both forever.

To Mary and Angela: Two of the most incredible women who have meant more to me over the years then either of them can ever imagine. Both of you inspired me to do "great" things and to be as authentic and original as I can while staying true to myself as an artist, mother, friend and woman. It was not easy moving to NH and leaving behind all my open minded and free thinking friends for a climate and place that is more inward focused then outward as I am. But there is change on the horizon and I am finally showing my authentic self here and finding things ring much truer to me now then ever before. Thank you both for giving me that courage!

To Judy: A person who I recently reconnected with (much to my delight) but never lost sight of over all these years. You were there for me as my yoga teacher but became so much more after my cancer diagnosis many years past now. I recall you telling me once that I was your hero, and that felt so uncomfortable to me Judy. You see I was just a woman doing what any woman would do with a diagnosis of cancer: making it all work the best you can. And you gave me that courage Judy to face those dark places, so thank you for being there in so many ways. (See links for Mindful Meditation)

To Sandy: Words cannot begin to express the deep meaning you brought to my life and still continue to do so. Through your gentle, loving and committed friendship you helped me to process and release more garbage from my life then I even knew existed! You are a healer, teacher and friend extraordinaire and I consider myself most lucky to have you in my my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart center! (See links for Peaceable Pathways)

To Sean: Your kind and attentive care brought a peace and calm to my life that has meant  much to me over these few years we have known one another. Your skilled hand and mind as an acupuncturist and your gentle ways, have helped me to feel healthier and more centered then I have in many long years. I am happy to have found you at a time when I needed alternative care which has blossomed into a real friendship. Thank you Sean! (See links for Balance Point)

To Barbara: There is a special place that you and your husband created that is my "go to place" for good energy, conversation and  courage. The Quartz Source is just such place. I came there years a go looking for help and inspiration for my cancer battle and your love and friendship won me over. It was you that gave me the idea to bring into surgery the things that I felt were needed by side: my Buddhist prayer beads, some stones that held great meaning and a letter to myself, all nicely sealed in a plastic bag and laid by my head. Thank you Barbara for giving me a smile and connection that is life lasting. (See links for The Quartz Source)

To Bodhipaksa: When I was struggling this last summer with some health concerns and feeling as though that recent brutal New England winter had done me in for good, I happened upon a CD of yours on Audible.com called Guided Meditations for Calmness, Awareness and Love. This became for me a beacon of light in a life that had long neglected a regular meditation practice. Feeling inspired, I knew I needed to find a place to meditate locally, much as I did in years long past at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. So I sign up for a class and SURPRISE you are the teacher! I had no idea you lived in NH much less were so close as your Scottish accent led me to believe you lived far and away. So fate played a hand and I thank you for having the foresight and business savvy to provide your work with meditation in so many varied formats with or without the dogma for one and all to enjoy: most wonderful. (See links for Wildmind Meditation and Aryaloka Buddhist Center)

To Michelle: For giving me some terrific aromatherapy care this past summer that helped me face the days and nights with a renewed sense of calm and relaxation. Thank you for listening to me and for being a true friend who really cares. One can never have enough of those in their life. (Good luck to you with the new business venture and once you have a link I will add it here!) 

And lastly to all the teachers I have yet to meet or have met, to all the friends I have made along my way and to my sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandmothers and grandfathers, in particular my Mother and Father for giving me this life to share with others, thank you from the very depth of my being.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Life Lessons From A Dogwood Tree

There is a flowering dogwood that stands close to the house that has been  both a delight and disappointment to me.  I was very excited at the prospect of seeing it come to life that first spring my husband, son and I moved into this home. Unfortunately,  the tree never bloomed to full capacity and in fact, never really has done so. Perhaps the limited sun exposure may be a factor. It grows in that slightly off balance, crooked way trees have when they are passionately trying to find and follow the light. It gets an abundance of early morning light, but as the day progresses and the shade marches outward from the house, you can sense each branch straining to catch every last bit of sunlight before it becomes a fading memory.

When the blooms eventually do come to burst open, they are amazing pink wonders of pure joy, and I find myself longing to see more of them but realize this may simply never happen.

Photo from Howtee.info

Sadly, last winter was one of the toughest on record for much of the Northeast, and living in New England as we do, ours was a doozy. We had so much ice and snow piled on the roof that we feared water entering the home. As a result, we hired a company to remove it all. In so doing they used long handled roof rakes to clear the snow and traditional hammers to break up the ice that in most places was over 10 inches thick and at least 2 feet high on the roof line. Crazy! They literally dumped all this accumulated winter off of the roof, over the side of the house onto the ground, deck and driveway. I was unaware of the damage that had been done to this precious dogwood of mine until after they had left. There were so many broken branches and fresh tears and cuts all over this tree that I truly felt it was never going to make it back from the shock. I sadly gathered up all the broken and severed tree limbs, tossing them over the side yard in order to remove them from my sight in the hope that this very act might enable the tree to recover.

When spring came, the tree, which is late bloomer anyway, looked positively dead. I was heartbroken and since the winter had taken its toll on me I felt my spirits plummet at the additional picture of sadness that this dogwood tree represented to me. It came to represent all that I felt in the last years as I struggled to find myself adrift and searching for meaning. I felt like a kindred spirit to that tree, aching to feel every last bit of sunshine on my face as I too attempted to grow beyond the constraints of my own life.

I had all but given up the tree for dead when by June it still looked every bit a goner. I despondently made plans in my head about what to put in its place, but had trouble as this tree had come to mean more to me then I could ever possibly imagine. Then a funny, wonderful thing happened, slowly, very slowly tiny leaves started to sprout on this tree sometime around the end of June. I was cautiously optimistic at this point and thought perhaps the tree was giving out one last effort to come back to life before all the energy left inside it was used up. A few very bedraggled and forlorn looking flowers popped out afterward, and  I thought to myself, this is it, the tree is saying goodbye. I decided at that point that I would just let the tree takes its own natural course and leave it alone. We left for a vacation on Nantucket Island soon after this and were gone for close to month.

When we returned I was moved beyond words to discover the dogwood had grown in leaps and bounds while we were away. There were so many branches and leaves that were growing so abundantly and the tree looked as though it had grown over a foot or more in our absence.

This dogwood tree suddenly became for me a solid and tangible representation of my own life. I too have felt slightly off kilter and out of place in New England and often find my sun loving nature staying outside long after dusk in an attempt to catch every last little bit of daylight. I was beaten and blue by the end of last winter and felt that the snow and ice had taken its toll on me too. I suffered terrible insomnia and battled the blues as result, which came from my desperation for winter to end and my endless craving for the smell and feel of spring to emerge. I went to Nantucket feeling exhausted and beaten by life from my severe perimenopausal symptoms of insomnia, depression and anxiety, which are all also symptomatic of my under producing thyroid as well.

A funny and wonderful thing happened to me too this past summer. The bright rays of summer sunshine, the love of my son, the comfort of my husband, the healing power of the ocean and my own inner resolve to not let life beat me down, or my own body get the better of me took over my senses. I healed in ways that were so good for my body, mind and spirit and when I returned home to see that dogwood come back to life in such  a glorious way I felt more connected to that tree then ever before. That dogwood became for me a symbol of all that I had come through in my life and that spoke to my heart in way that nothing else ever could.

Recently, we had a surprise snow storm that rocked New England into becomming the unwanted recipient of over 18 inches of some of the heaviest, wettest snow imaginable! Halloween was indeed cancelled much to the dismay of children everywhere who now had to wait another week to don those costumes and go foraging for candy!

Once again my dogwood is wounded from the weight and sheer volume of the snow that fell. Two huge fresh gashes adorn the location where two of its tallest limbs once were attached. And I felt my breath catch as I tossed those two severed branches over the side of our property yet again. But there was a slight difference to this act now, because I sensed that this scrappy, tough dogwood who refused to let life get in the way, would do whatever it took to come back again. And that is life lesson worth remembering!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thyroid Meds May NOT be for me

You may recall I had recently been given a therapeutic trial of Tirosint for my thyroid. I have come to the following conclusion after much careful thought and action: my system reacts in far too hyper a way to the drug, which my endocrinologist tells me, means my body is indeed converting my T4 to T3. He keeps lowering my dose, and I still keep feeling hyper, so much so that this last week I had 3 hours of sleep in 3 nights, NOT good for me or anyone.

What led me down this path in the first place was the fact that my TSH is normal, but my thyroid antibodies are high. This can be indicative of Hashimoto Thyroiditis. This theoretically means my antibodies are attacking my thyroid, which is still functioning, but at some point  may stop working. The theory with some doctors, is to allow patients such as myself, to try out thyroid medications on a trial basis in an attempt to see if they respond well to treatment. If they do, then this medication becomes part of a persons daily routine and it becomes a life choice at that point.

There were some days I felt incredibly good. There was this amazing sense of well being and calmness that was unlike any other I had ever felt. But, it came at a price of rapid heart beat, diarrhea, nausea, and some of the worst sleep I have had in months. Also, it made me feel many times like a person who drank too much coffee, on speed or simply too hyper to sit still for very long.

I have been recently reading Dr. John R. Lee's book and theories on women and menopause. He was the doctor who started the ground breaking practice of placing women on natural  progesterone therapy in order to balance out, women like me, who are estrogen dominant and progesterone deficient. Which happens to be most women at  this perimenopausal time of life. He has suggested that many women present a normal TSH but elevated antibodies as a direct result of progesterone deficiency. The body needs to make up for the loss somewhere so it takes from the thyroid and adrenal system.   So, in some cases, the thyroid and adrenal system are often impacted in such way that they overproduce some months and under produce at others causing women to feel at times hypo and hyper in terms of thyroid. 

I have decided to stop the therapeutic trial as I do not feel it is giving me a consistent enough feeling of well being to warrant going through more days of this adjustment process. What I am going to do is pursue the progesterone therapy in an effort to perhaps stave off the impending attack on my thyroid.

This is all so complex, and one that requires me to truly act as my own patient advocate. It is a bumpy road, but once again I am trusting my instincts on this one and giving the thyroid meds a break. Now, it may be that one day, I will in fact need to pursue this as part of my daily regime, but for right now I feel it best to do all I can to look for and assess the root cause of the inflammation first, then determine where to go from there.

Again, this may all be anectodal in terms of theory, but it makes sense to at least try it. After all, taking thyroid meds for me right now is like adding fuel to a fire that is already stoked since my symptoms seem to be more hyper then hypo related. So lets see where this new path leads me. This is not an easy process and it took me this whole week to really anaylze and assess what my steps would be on this path to wellness.

I do encourage everyone to do what feels best for you in order to make your own assessments.  Sometimes all we can do is take it one step at a time in order to truly determine a course of treatment that works.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Become A Parent?

Do you ever have those moments with your kids that are so pure, so spontaneous and so utterly engaging that you find yourself knowing exactly when and why you decided to start a family? Conversely, do you ever have those days when you wonder "just what was I thinking, was  I nuts and will I ever be able to walk across the family room floor without a Lego embedded in my foot!?!" HAHA, luckily I have more of the former then the latter but both are absolutely valid ways of thinking about parenthood and all the many joys and stresses it brings to your life.

There are days I feel so in tune with my 7 year old son that we just seem to "go with the flow" in a way that needs few words sometimes. Those are the days that being a parent is easy and all seems to follow a predetermined pattern that is so superfluous it needs no nudging or prodding to improve upon its rhythm.

Then, there are those days when the true meaning of being a parent and mother takes hold and you suddenly find yourself at odds with the world at large, questioning "is this the same child I lovingly snuggled with at bedtime?" Where even the simple words of "good morning" can turn a normally loving, laughter filled child into a moaning, angst ridden, petulant miserable person who suddenly blames you for every Lego creation that falls apart, every line in a picture that gets drawn incorrectly and basically every move you make as a gladiator about to do battle! GRRRRR!!!!

Yes indeed, those are times that being a parent is so challenging that it makes you wonder a tad more along the lines of the "what was I thinking" when I thought being a parent would be just the thing that was missing from my life. HA! It still is! Although, on those days you just might have to look a little harder to find the balance that makes it all end up OK! Easier said then done to be sure.

There is an insightful parenting book, written by Jon and Myla  Kabat- Zinn called Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. I discovered this book over the summer and have simply fallen in love with it. Jon Kabat-Zinn is  Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His wife Myla has worked as a childbirth educator and birthing assistant. At the time the book was printed in 1997 they had 3 children ranging from the ages of 22 to 14. So years of experience to guide them. I love the following passage from the book as it expresses so eloquently what I am trying to say on this post today: " When we become parents whether intentionally or by happenstance, our whole life is immediately different, although it may take some time to realize just how much. Being a parent compounds stress by orders of magnitude. It makes us vulnerable in ways we weren't before. It calls us to be responsible in ways we weren't before. It challenges us as never before, and takes our time and attention away from other things, including ourselves as never before. It creates chaos and disorder, feelings of inadequacy, occasions for arguments, struggles, irritation, noise, seemingly never-ending obligations and errands, and plenty of opportunities for getting stuck, angry, resentful, hurt, and for feeling overwhelmed, old and unimportant. And this can go on not only when the children are little, but even when they are full grown on their own. Having children is asking for trouble. So why do it? 

Children embody what is best in life. They live in the present moment. They are pure potentiality embodying vitality, emergence, renewal and hope. They are purely what they are. And they share that vital nature with us and call it out of us as well, if we can listen carefully to the calling."

So beautifully put and humbling for us all.

I had to close with this story: I met a woman the other day who told me about her stepson with whom she had a terrible time parenting throughout his childhood, teen and young adult life. He was angry and resentful of her involvement with him and never saw her as a mother figure. He was disobedient, disrespectful and made her question whether she was any good at this mothering thing. Life was so stressful that she thought many times if she had made the right choice to marry and take on this endless responsibility that never let up to give her a even a moment of peace. Through it all, she persevered with this child, teen, and man he eventually became although there were many days she felt useless and impotent as a parent.

Tears sprang into my eyes when she told me he called her not long after the birth of his first born child to apologize for all the years of pain and anguish he had put her through. He told her how sorry he was and that she had meant more to him then he could ever hope to express. What a testament to the mother she was and is, and the fact that as hard as it must have been, she never gave up, gave in or moved on. I am in awe of her fortitude and stamina and told her so! She truly was and is a mother who did indeed raise a wonderful son!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thyroid Balance and Menopause

You may recall from earlier posts of mine that I began taking thyroid meds in the last two or so weeks. Initially I was so "amped" up in that first 48 to 72 hours that I felt and acted like the energizer bunny on speed! Then on night 3 I started waking quite often all night long with a rapidly, pounding heart beat that left me tired and groggy the next day. Not fun! I spoke to the doctor who thought this might all be caused by my medication working against my dropping estradiol. Suffice it to say this is the drop in estrogen that begins to occur as menopause is advancing and frequently causes hot flashes and heart palpitations. He also noted that I tend to be hypersensive to any and all medications in my system, so he lowered my dose from:

25 mcg of Tirosint per day, to 25mcg for three days per week.

This slower approach would allow my body to adjust and regulate my thyroid without the initial charge of the the daily dose. He also had me stop the meds for a period of 3 days prior to starting at the lowered dose. This is the typical pattern suggested for patients when increasing or decreasing thyroids meds.

The Results: One week after starting the meds at the new lowered dose I am actually starting to feel, dare I say it, GOOD?

This is a new feeling for me because I have felt so "crappy," to put it bluntly, for so long, that I was not even sure what good meant, and would I even know it when I felt it? I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me, those of you in the throes of hormonal imbalances in your own life know what I am referring to quite well!

This "good" feeling I have only just begun to experience has come with its share of side effects from the Tirosint such as nausea, diarrhea, increased heart rate/pulse, feeling really "up" for part of the day, then dropping off as the day goes on, sleep disturbances and/or night wakings and a mildly salty taste in my mouth at times.

All these are side effects of the thyroid regulating process. There is no exact science here and it can take weeks and months to balance you out. Once you are deemed "in balance" you will very likely need adjustments every so often annually, or more or less often depending on how you are feeling. A lot of endocrinologists and doctors use your TSH levels or numbers as the "gold standard" indicator for being "in balance" and use this as their sole guide. I have chosen to work with a more enlightened endocrinologist who bases his adjustment process on both your levels and on how you are feeling. He has been doing this for over 30 years and knows how beneficial this is to his patients.

The thyroid is a difficult glad to regulate. There are so many variables. A little to much of the meds and you are hyper and anxious, conversely, too little and your are lethargic and depressed. Oddly enough, these are the same symptoms for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Also, there are many other factors that coexist to complicate matters. If you are like me and going through hormonal fluctuations due to perimenopause or menopause, it makes regulating the thyroid that much more trickier, which may at some point need to be supplemented with progesterone and estrogen to help smooth things out.

This is not an easy road by any stretch of the imagination. All I know is the doctor told me that the person I am today is going to be an even better version of me 6 months to one year from now and I have to trust my instinct on this one folks and say "bring it on!" The feeling of calm and focus that is slowly starting to creep back into my life is indication enough for me that my thyroid is waking up to regulate my metabolism. I had no idea how bad I really was feeling till these recent glimpses of "good" started appearing. WOW!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Blog Title

I removed the word mayhem from my Blog title as it did not ring true to who I am and what I am trying to accomplish on these pages. Mayhem connotes massacre, violence and chaos that sounds far more fitting for Attila the Hun then the change in a woman's life.  I also feel there are far too many negative words used to describe women and our emotions without giving it one more moniker that does not empower.

Yes, this time in our lives can be mercurial and frenetic, but it is also a time well earned in knowledge and experience. I would not trade any of it for anyone else's life, ever! Sure, I have had my share of ups and downs but it is a life well lived, and it took me a long time to get to this place so why waste time wishing it was something other then it is? Plus, I have had a ton of fun along the way and plan on a lot more mirth and merriment to guide me the rest of the way!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Flow or No Flow???

It would seem since I first went public about my “menopausal” symptoms and long before I ever envisioned starting this blog, some women enjoyed sharing with me that they indeed are still in the flow so to speak and not menopausal. It was said often at times, with a certain air of girlish glee and a tossing of the head, as though this fact made them invincible to the tide of change that is coming for them all. And dare I say it; there was an air of female bravado…much like a younger male struts and puffs his chest in an attempt to show off his prowess and virility.

I am in what is called the Perimenopausal phase of a woman's menstrual cycle.This is the approximately ten year period leading up to the cessation of menstruation. It can last longer for some and shorter for others. Symptoms can be mild to severe. Most women tend to notice a disturbed sleeping pattern during this phase, which can be precipitated by hot flashes and/or heart palpitations.

Typically, most women follow a pattern during this time similar to that of their mother. This is not a hard and fast truth, but many of the experts agree, if your mother had a rough time with perimenopause than chances are you will too. Same with menopause. Also, you will typically stop your flow at approximately the same age she was, so if you wonder when that was, please ask her while you can, it is vital information for your personal health records. 

My mother was almost 54 when hers stopped and yes her hormones raged at just the time I was entering highschool. It was a challenging time for all of us as mom would rail on one minute in anger at the silliest of things, then look to be your best friend and confidant in the next moment.  Confusing, you bet, especially given my own cycle of hormonal ups and downs that all teens encounter!

I have literally read hundreds of books on the subject over the last 10 or more years. I am a voracious and insatiable  reader and think nothing of having a minimum of 5 to 10 books being read simultaneously, in fact, I prefer it! 

Two books I found quite useful were Dr. Christiane Northrup's book called The Wisdom of Menopause. You need to look past the new-agey type references which I did in some places, to fully appreciate the incredible wealth of information that is here. It is an invaluable resource from a woman who has been there in so many ways. Another book I thoroughly enjoyed for its very detailed and well researched biological and physiological explanation  of a woman's progression from infant to mature woman and more is The Female Brain written by Louann Brizendine MD.

In the meantime, if you seem to have a shorter fuse in the last few years or so and your memory is not what it used to be you could be starting down that path toward menopause. You might also find yourself having gaining some weight in the middle region that is much harder to lose then it was a few years or so ago. Or perhaps there is a dryness to your skin that is not just noticeable during the winter months. Or there may be slow decrease in energy, nothing too drastic, but noticeable. There might also be some clotty, heavy flows one month and a very spotty light flow the next, or a total increase or decrease in the number of days you actual menstruate. You may find yourself waking more frequently early in the morning and find it most difficult to fall back asleep. Or those night wakings may be preceded by a pounding heart or feelings of heat and/or sweating. These and more are just some of the many symptoms that we all get in the years leading up to menopause, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in some women these symptoms can contiunue for some years after cessation as well.
This is why it is so important to do what you can now to make this transition time as easy on yourself and your loved ones. Arm yourself with knowledge, don't bury your head in the sand wishing it will just go away. The earlier you catch things and make adjustments the easier perhaps this time will be for you!